(BIS Photo / Peter Ramsay)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very happy to be with you today to celebrate the victorious return of our young athletes. You are among the rising stars of The Bahamas.
I also recognize and thank the coaches and other officials for their contributions to the success of Team Bahamas.
Your commitment to developing our athletes is the kind of mentoring and guidance which makes all the difference in the success of young Bahamians in every field of endeavour from athletics to academics to the arts.
The nation’s youth are both our hope for today, and the promise of tomorrow. Therefore, coaches and mentors: You are truly engaged in a noble cause. Dear Athletes:
All of you distinguished yourselves at the 2012 CARIFTA Games. You made your country very proud. Your 40 medals, including 14 Gold medals, placed The Bahamas in second position overall in the medal count. I believe this is the largest number of medals we've received in almost 30 years.
That ‘Team Bahamas’ placed so well between the larger countries of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago respectively, is an extraordinary accomplishment. It confirms that while we are a smaller country, our achievements are not limited by the size of our population.
The power and vibrancy of the Junkanoo rush out that rocked the National Sports Centre in Bermuda showcased to the world the depth of the talent that we bring to the world stage.
A story in The Jamaican Gleaner shows how much Team Bahamas rocked in Bermuda. It noted that Jamaica captured fewer medals than the record number it received in 2004.
The Gleaner reported, and I quote: “Some of the sheen was taken off the island's performance, however, as the ‘Sprint Capital’ of the world copped only two of the 12 sprint medals that were on offer.”
Then the article quoted Jamaica’s head coach to the Carifta Games in Bermuda who said:
“For me it says our sprint coaches need to start looking at what they are doing, because we were outrun by the Bahamas...We won only two of the 12 sprint medals that were on offer and we collected minor medals in the rest.” Imagine that. Today, Jamaica is saying that they were outrun by The Bahamas. They better get used to it.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
What we achieved in Bermuda was not a matter of chance or happenstance. They are the result of many years of hard work and dedication by our athletes. These young men and women serve as inspiration for us all, and as importantly, as peer role models for other young Bahamians.
But their success is also the result of the dedication of coaches, athletic officials, teachers, and of course parents and guardians. It takes team effort to raise an athlete.
I hasten to thank the Hon. Charles Maynard, the Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture and the various Ministry officials who continue to help build Team Bahamas day in and day out. I thank also the officials of The Bahamas Athletic Association and those corporate citizens who contributed to the success of our athletes.
For our part, the Government of The Bahamas is deeply committed to playing its role in developing the athletic abilities of Bahamians and the sporting prowess of The Bahamas.
We have increased support for the development of sports in our schools. We have improved sports facilities in community and neighbourhood parks. We have also significantly increased the number of athletic scholarships to tertiary institutions.
A significant milestone in our efforts was the construction of the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. This is the first phase of our long range plans to transform the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre into the finest athletic complex in the region.
Further, we will introduce a junior athlete development programme for future Olympians. As a part of this effort we will create new community sports facilities in New Providence and the Family Islands and rebuild a number of high school gymnasiums.
As our athletes mature, it is essential that we continue to support them and give them the opportunity to shine at home and abroad.
Today we are yet again celebrating the pride and joy that is bestowed upon The Bahamas when our athletes carry our flag to international competitions. It continues to be the privilege of my Government to have increased funding to support our athletes in such competitions.
In 2013 The Bahamas will host the Carifta Games in our new National Stadium. Tomorrow, the Carifta swimming competition begins at the Betty Kelly-Kenning Aquatic Centre. I know that Bahamians everywhere will be cheering on our swimmers whether at the Sports Centre or around their televisions. Athletes, Coaches, Officials:
We have truly arrived at a new day in athletics in The Bahamas. But like our athletes, let us not rest on past success. There is much work to be done. For all of our athletic and sporting success, the world ain’t seen nothing yet from Team Bahamas
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Please join me in celebrating the success of our young athletes and the bright future they represent for our Bahamas. They set an example of talent forged into success through disciplined effort. They make us proud of being Bahamians.
On behalf of my colleagues and a grateful nation we thank all of you who made this day possible. Now it’s on to London 2012!